Colorectal Cancer: Everything You Need to Know

What is Colorectal Cancer? 

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women. The cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, but it appears to be related to dietary factors and sedentary lifestyles.

Colorectal cancer begins as a benign tumor called a polyp that forms in the colon or rectum. Over time, these polyps can become cancerous, spreading to nearby organs or lymph nodes and eventually becoming metastatic—spreading to other parts of the body. 

There are two types of colorectal cancers:

Adenocarcinoma, which affects the inner lining of the colon or rectum 

Carcinoid Tumors, which are much less common and slow-growing 

How do You Know if you Have Colorectal Cancer? 

Most people who get colorectal cancer are over 50, but younger people can get it too, so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms.

The most common sign of colorectal cancer is blood in your stool. Blood may appear red or black, but even a small amount of blood mixed with your stool can be a warning sign. You might notice blood on the toilet paper, on the toilet bowl after you flush, or even drops of blood in your toilet bowl after you finish going to the bathroom. Blood mixed with stool changes its appearance—it may look black or tarry, or it may look like coffee grounds. If your stool looks this way, even just once, see a Gastroenterologist right away so they can run tests and find out what is causing it. Other signs include rectal pain, abdominal pain or discomfort (such as bloating), unexplained weight loss, changes in bowel movements over time (diarrhea, constipation), anemia (low red blood cell count due to bleeding from inside of the body) 

Who Should Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer? 

The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk begin colorectal cancer screening at age 50. This includes colonoscopies every 10 years, flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, or a combination of both as recommended by your gastroenterologist. If you are between 45 and 49 and have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, talk to your doctor about possibly starting screening earlier. If you have a higher risk for colorectal cancer because of a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or cancer, talk to your doctor about whether to begin screening before age 50, how often to get screened, and what type of test is right for you. 

How is it Treated? 

Colorectal Cancer treatment depends on the stage of cancer and how far it has spread. Treatment may include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy. 

Surgery is the most common treatment for Colorectal Cancer. A Gastrointestinal Surgeon removes cancer, along with some of the healthy tissue around it—called a margin—and lymph nodes near the tumor site. This surgery is called resection. The surgeon usually reconnects your colon in a procedure called anastomosis. If this isn’t possible, you may need to have an ostomy, where a bag collects stool as it passes through a new opening in your body, often in your abdomen. 

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or stop them from dividing. It’s given after surgery to lower the risk that cancer will return or spread to other parts of your body, but sometimes it can be given at the same time as surgery or before surgery if you aren’t a candidate for surgery due to other health conditions or if there’s little chance of removing all of the cancer with surgery. 

Radiation Therapy uses high-powered energy beams to kill cancer cells. It’s only used for rectal cancers and, in some cases, after surgery for Colon Cancers at higher risk of coming back (recurring). This treatment is often combined with chemotherapy. 

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses certain parts of a patient’s immune system to fight cancer cells. The basic premise of immunotherapy is to encourage the body’s own immune system to recognize, target, and destroy cancer cells. Because the immune system has specific ways of recognizing normal, healthy cells in the body, it can identify and attack irregular, foreign cells—such as mutated cancer cells. So far, immunotherapies have been shown to be effective against several types of cancers. Colon Cancer is one particular type of cancer for which immunotherapy appears to be showing promise. 

Colon cancer is a terrible disease that affects millions of people worldwide. We are proud to bring you a special GI Cancer Screening Package and other Cancer Screening Packages. Take control of your life today by taking advantage of this opportunity. Please contact one of our Cancer Experts if you have any questions, because every minute matters when it comes to fighting cancer. 

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